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Opinion | We are not meant to be fanatics

The program culminated in “a deep dive into the criminal justice system – we met law enforcement officers, visited prisons, and went to the Michigan state capital,” told me Alexis Lewis, who graduated from Spring Arbor this spring and participated in the program. She said the discussions “could be uncomfortable at times” but was surprised at the honesty and mutual understanding of the participants. “I think we dehumanize each other when we have different opinions, but in Bridging the Gap we started telling our stories and that made you care about the other person,” said Ms. Lewis. “It wasn’t about changing someone’s minds, but realizing that the truth you have may not be the whole truth.”

Join Michael Barbaro and The Daily team as they celebrate the students and teachers who end a year like no other with a special live event. Find out about students at Odessa High School, the subject of a Times audio documentary series. We even get loud with a performance by the drum line of the award-winning Odessa Marching Band and a special opening speech from celebrities.

I’m convinced – well, I’m trying to convince myself – that most Americans are like Ms. Lewis. They are tired of the culture wars; they want to understand other people and get along with them. It is true that a few zealots turn political ideas into infallible dogmas because they seek the sense of community that traditional religion once offered and because they yearn for ideological surrogates for the teachings of original sin, predestination, and divine justice – that perverse mix of that Control and victimhood are what excite people when the prospect of real responsibility becomes too daunting.

But a much larger proportion of Americans want their free will back. You belong to the organization that More in Common, which I mentioned earlier, calls “the exhausted majority.” The constant theme in my conversations with young believers left and right is their longing for the freedom to escape from the political tribes. Their refusal to commit to the habits and fears of their parents’ generation reflects the special role young Americans played in the détente between Catholics and Protestants two generations ago – and perhaps the history of interfaith conflict can tell us something about rebuilding industrial relations teach between Republicans and Democrats.

If today’s hatred seems ineradicable, it is encouraging to remember how far Americans have come since 1960, for example, when John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign prompted evangelical Protestants to organize a media flash warning voters that a Catholic president would be a pawn for the Vatican, that fertile Catholic families would take over the land, and that patriotic Protestants shouldn’t stop themselves from sounding the alarm. “Are we moving into an era of Roman Catholic supremacy in America?” Harold Ockenga, a prominent evangelical pastor, asked in a rousing speech a few weeks before the election. “Will it be withheld from non-Roman Catholic rights, freedoms and privileges?”

While there is a passing anti-Catholic prejudice in some circles today, many Americans welcomed the Catholic faith of our 46th President with a collective shrug. Over the decades, a complex series of socio-economic, cultural and ideological changes have paved the way for Protestants and Catholics to recognize themselves as fellow human beings who can cooperate in the democratic process and even bring their families together. Young lay believers contributed at least as much to interreligious understanding as bishops and theologians. Protestants and Catholics, funded by the GI law, sat side by side in college classrooms after World War II; they marched side by side in the civil rights movement; They worshiped together in the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when Pentecostal revivals swept across all Christian denominations and had a particular impact on colleges.

It is important to see that young Catholics and Protestants were not just emissaries of the inevitable generational change. In the interfaith friendships they chose despite their “ethnic” surname – in the myriad of small, compassionate interactions that distinguish a flourishing civilization from a crumbling one – they made conscious choices to reject the prejudices and assumptions of older generations.

“I think a lot has changed with my colleagues,” said Aberdeen Livingstone, an aspiring junior at King’s College, a Christian liberal arts school in New York City. “The will to become politically active is increasing, but so is the awareness of the dangers of tribalism. Many of my friends try to return to something that defines their values ​​differently from politics. “

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